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Vol. LVIII, No. 14
July 14, 2006

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Recent Heavy Storms Cause Major Campus Damage

The unusually heavy rainstorms June 25-26 caused significant flooding and water damage on NIH's Bethesda campus, according to Juanita Mildenberg, acting director of the Office of Research Facilities. The building maintenance crews received so many calls during the wet weather that a triage system had to be enacted.

"This had more impact than Hurricane Isabel, mainly due to the duration and hardness of the rains," she said. "Because the grounds were saturated in many places, we experienced a lot of run-off that eventually found its way into many of our buildings."

By far the most widespread problem was water getting into the elevator shafts of quite a few campus buildings. The elevator pits are the lowest destination in buildings, Mildenberg explained, so water that seeps into the building automatically collects in them.

Elevators in Bldgs. 2, 14A and 13 were shut down until water could be drained from the shafts and the areas could be dried. About 1,500 gallons of water had collected in Bldg. 13 alone.

ORF crews also found roof and sewer drains that leaked or got clogged, causing the water to pool in some areas. In some cases, roof drains had been improperly sealed by contractors, or sand — put down in winter to help passage on icy roads — caused storm drains to back up.

Also affected was Bldg. 10, where the old ACRF garage and some corridors on the B2 level took on water. In addition, water from the Clinical Center roof leaked into some areas of the building from the 13th floor down to the 7th floor, which caused the fire alarm system to shut down. As is the procedure during an outage of the alarm system, ORF crews conducted walk-by inspections of the building in case of fire.

Although the water damage was extensive in several areas, Mildenberg said no injuries were reported. Crews are still determining how much if any research or research-related equipment was damaged as a result of the flooding. As of Record press time, most of the clean-up had concluded.

Working with the NIH Division of Occupational Safety and Health, ORF crews determined that to prevent mold and mildew buildup that can cause illness, any environment with wet carpeting must be completely dried out within 48 hours, or the flooring would have to be replaced.

Mildenberg said ORF staff and contractors alike worked diligently around the clock to meet that deadline and succeeded overall. "Everything is pretty much dried out now," she concluded. "Despite the severity of the storms, our teams from ORF and the Office of Research Services really responded well."

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